Rex Ryan respects Bill Belichick. Belichick respects Ryan.
Ryan wants to kick Belichick's rear end. Belichick wants to ... well, the New England Patriots' tight-lipped coach wouldn't go that far Wednesday. He stuck to the mutual-admiration theme.
"You can definitely see his stamp on the team, how they play and how successful they've been over the last two years," Belichick said of his New York Jets counterpart on a conference call with the New York media. "I have a lot of respect for him, what he does and the success that he's had doing it throughout his career, particularly the last two years where we've gone head-to-head with him."
The fourth Belichick-Ryan matchup is Monday night (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET), and this will be the biggest of them all -- two 9-2 teams, fighting for the AFC East title, and more.
So far, Ryan owns a 2-1 lead over Belichick.
In typical fashion, Ryan has been talking big all week, saying he expects the Jets to win in Foxborough, Mass. He has provided unsolicited praise of Belichick, but he also told Newsday that he "came [to the Jets] to kick Belichick's ass."
That was Rex being Rex. Asked if he could remember the last time an opposing coach said he wanted to kick his butt, Belichick paused a few seconds.
"I don't know," he finally answered, declining to elaborate.
Like Ryan, Belichick is the son of a coach (his late father, Steve, was an assistant at the Naval Academy), and he respects that Ryan is a football guy, not a pretty-boy coach who rode somebody else's coattails.
"Obviously, [he] does a great job," Belichick said. "[He] did an excellent job with the Baltimore defense. That 2000 defense that he was a part of is as good a defense as there was in the history of the game. Of course his father's defense at Chicago in '85 is probably the other one that's right up there."
Belichick knows Ryan through Rex's twin brother, Rob, a former assistant on Belichick's staff in New England. Belichick won two Super Bowl rings with Rob on his staff.
"It sounds like they have a lot of similarities, and I think they both describe it that way," Belichick said. "I feel like I know Rex through Rob probably better than just the amount of time that Rex and I have spent together."
Unlike Ryan, who hasn't been bashful about hyping Jets-Patriots as the marquee game of the year, Belichick downplayed that aspect.
"In the end, I don't think anybody's record really matters right now," he said. "It's all about the preparation and the game this week. I don't think any of that is really significant as far as the outcome of this game because this game is more about the preparation and the performance of the two teams. That will be on Monday night. That's how we look at it."